Our golf expert brings you his preview and predictions for this week's men's golf - The WGC St Jude Invitational.
TPC Southwind has always been a welcome course to my palate as we can usually narrow down the field a little to potential winners. We've always felt hitting fairways here is important to scoring over the week but with modern advances in club technology and stats available we've been able to glean that hitting fairways is far from the most important aspect around here. Ball striking is equally as important as many greens are missed here due to the challenging nature of their size and the difficult task from tee to green. Short game is more important than the average tour event with the field missing more greens than most recent tests. A Par 70 will deem Par 4 scoring an important aspect with less of a chance to bomb your way to glory here. Zoysia grass in the fairways promotes tougher control of approach shots meaning short games are inevitably put under pressure.
Brooks Koepka at 14/1
Top billing for betting purposes this week goes the way of Brooks Koepka. We backed him at 11/1 when he won this two years ago and slightly bigger on offer this week is value in my books given a lot of the market leaders look far from their best.. Koepka comes here off the back of four top 5 finishes in his last five events, the one missed cut in there being the meaningless Palmetto Championship. 2nd, 4th and 6th in the final three majors this summer has been a solid return for someone who has had a topsy turvy year both on and off the course. The nonsense with Bryson hasn't helped those major near misses in my opinion but he can get back down to business here at one of his favourite tracks on the circuit. He ticks all the boxes you'd like stat wise for this event and they are backed up by an incredible four top 3 finishes in his last six starts here. I think he should be a lot stronger favourite than what he currently is.
4pts WIN B.Koepka 14/1
Collin Morikawa at 14/1
McIlroy may return invigorated by his trip to the Olympics where he looked to have an enjoyable few days playing for medals which he said reminded him of his golf in Ireland growing up. The 18/1 on offer though isn't tasty enough for someone with only one win in nearly two years. Thomas still looks far from his best and I'm surprised he hasn't drifted to a bigger mark this week despite winning this last year. Spieth looks plenty short enough and maybe Dustin Johnson is entitled to be further up the market. The likes of Berger and Oosthuizen also gain skinny odds this week and it looks to me as if the market doesn't reflect the chances of the two powerhouses at the top. This leads me to keep the bets in this event down to three and my second is Collin Morikawa who at 14/1 looks a fair price. The gamble with Morikawa is a putting week and there's an argument to suggest to wait for bigger odds about him before getting involved. However, other parts of his game do bridge the gap even if he does have a poor putting week, and he certainly seemed to find something on the greens the two weeks in Scotland and England. The world no3 and Rahm look to have distanced themselves a little recently and Morikawa has all the tools for Southwind. A par 70 where par 4 scoring is important is right up his street, as are the approach shots, most of which take place between 150-200 yards. His approach play can excel here and there is every chance he distances himself from the field once again in this department.
3pts each-way C.Morikawa 14/1 (1/5 7)
Sergio Garcia at 70/1
Ranking 3rd in SG Approach last time out at the 3M Open, Sergio Garcia was let down by as cold a putter as you could imagine. His long game has been in good shape all Summer in fact with absolutely no turnaround on the greens to improve results. He has still managed four top 25 finishes on the trot however and must be considered at a top price of 75/1. We have seen before the difference a good putting week can have to the likes of Morikawa and Sergio would not be far away from a win if things turn with the flat stick. It is a gamble of course but he has the long game to steal a march on plenty here. Of the others, Lowry looked interesting at a track that should suit his game. Fitzpatrick is another playing wonderful stuff right now but again the market looked to have a hold on him. These WGC's are dominated by major winners and the two most impressive of recent years are where the bulk of my money is at this week.
1.25pt each-way S.Garcia 70/1 (1/5 7)